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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

ALEXAKBEE  VO5sT  HIJMBOLDT.                199
and extension of the conception of nature in its en-
tirety. For the desire of humanity to know heaven
and earth, and to comprehend the connexion of the great
natural forces in "both, fields, lias existed since the
remotest ages, and among the oldest nations of an-
tiquity. A contemplative observation of the pheno-
mena and developments of nature, has, in all ages,
been indispensable to the intelligent, and the pro-
gressive knowledge of nature, in its relation to the
universe, lias always kept pace with the civilization of
mankind. Like all knowledge, this first contempla-
tion of nature begun with single objects, and the
presumed intimate connexion of these with entire
nature. With increasing civilization this supposition
became a knowledge of nature, and the prophetic
phantasy of a Plato, Columbus, and Kepler, dimly
pointed to the end which, experimental science sxibse-
quently attained by qfcher means.
The gradual development of the comprehensive
faculties of humanity, which produced the notion of
the unity of all natural phenomena, as a whole, inti-
mately connected in all its parts, is produced, accord-
ing to Humboldt: first, by the independent pursuit
of human reason of the knowledge of natural laws—
or a thoughtful observation of the phenomena oŁ
nature; secondly, by the great terrestrial events which
have suddenly extended the horizon for study; thirdly^
by the invention of new means for the extension of
actual observation, (as telescopes, microscopes, and
other optical and scientific insiaruments) which has
brought us into nearer intercourse with the objects of
this earth, and with those of the most distant regions,
having thus strengthened ajid multiplied our capa-
bilities of perception.
Humboldt started from these three features of the
causes of progress in his studies on the history of
natural contemplations; and on this field, alsoy Ms
universally developed mind was of great assistance to
him. He traced the gradually increasing knowledge
of nature, the consequence of a latent endeavour fcor